NFFF to Turn Focus on Mental Health

BALTIMORE, Md. --

Responders also must be mentally prepared to do their jobs.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation announced Friday more resources on that issue will be available for personnel.

View Coverage From Firehouse Expo 2010

While critical incident stress counselors are called in following a tragic event, firefighters are often left alone to deal with day-to-day issues.

Statistics show cardiac issues are the leading cause of death of responders, and stress increases the likelihood of an episode.

NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki said stresses of everyday life often cloud a person's judgment to make healthier choices.

At Firehouse Expo on Friday, Siarnicki said: "Behavioral health means keeping your head in the game. Everyone deals with stress differently. People are resilient, and handle issues in their own way."

While some may be able to work through a crisis on their own or talk about it with a peer, others may need more intervention.

Dr. Richard Gist said it's essential that officers conduct a hot wash or debriefing after calls to let people know there's assistance available.

"One provider's trauma is another's routine call," he said.

Getting colleagues and supervisors to recognize a person's need for intervention is essential, Gist added.

In the coming months, the NFFF will be working with psychologists and other professionals to develop materials that will be available online as well as in training sessions.

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